“It's wrong to say: it's only because of the system”

For the discussion about the guilt of the church in the scandal about sexual abuse, the bishop of Hildesheim Wilmer asks for a differentiated view. Blame can be placed on individuals as well as the institution of the church, he said.

"Of course, you can not communalize the blame of the abuse scandal," Bishop Heiner Wilmer told the newspaper "Die Tagespost" on Thursday. It is always individuals who commit abuses, he said. "But the question is: In what framework did this happen? And how has the institution responded?"

Self-image of a "perfect society" shaped

This is "very complex" and should not be simplified, Wilmer stressed. "It's wrong to say: It's only up to the system". It is just as wrong to say: It was only individuals, the system has nothing to do with it.".

The bishop said that over a long period of time the church had cultivated the self-image of a "perfect society", the "societas perfecta". And of course, "as a Church, we are also holy from God; but we are also fragile and we also sin". Both as individuals and as an institution, the church and Christians could be guilty of. "Otherwise the church would just be abstract," Wilmer argued.

A priestly formation marked by different spectrums

With regard to the training of priests, the Hildesheim bishop had recently warned against "theological inbreeding". In an interview, he said that the Jesuit Charles Lohr (1925-2015), who coined the word, had promoted "intellectual breadth". German-speaking theologians should not only read German-speaking theologians. In academic theology, he said, "it is important that we keep in mind the French, Spanish, Italian and Polish speaking areas". Accordingly, more theological literature needs to be translated into German, Wilmer said. "Especially in training, we should look at the different spectrums and camps – and also read."

On practical training, he said it was crucial "that priests, deacons, pastoral assistants and parish workers complete at least parts of their training together". Finally, he says, they later "work together in communities and spiritual centers". Moreover, academic training alone is not enough. Good spiritual direction, that is, one fed by experience, the bishop said, is "a key to proclamation".

"Laudato si" key text in recent papal history

Bishop Wilmer sees Pope Francis' environmental encyclical "Laudato si" as a "key text in recent papal history". No text by a pope has been so widely received and appreciated outside the church in the past 40 years, he said. Apparently, with the 2015 doctrinal letter, Francis "struck a chord that vibrates the world and inspires and excites many people," the religious said.

Regarding criticism, for example, from scientists who reject the thesis of man-made climate change, Wilmer said, "Whenever the church intervenes in people's concerns, it not only receives approval."A "dynamic of difference" is part of the church's proclamation. The bishop of Hildesheim said: "I am always skeptical when solutions are easy. It is good to bring people into conversation with each other, even if we as a church do not have the patent solution."

"Laudato si" is considered the first papal encyclical on the environment. But the letter is also a "green social encyclical," because in it Francis advocates a "holistic ecology" from the perspective of the poorest people. From Francis' perspective, one cannot talk about environmental protection without looking at social justice, the global economic system, refugee ies and human rights.

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Christina Cherry
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